Discovering Beat the Street
Maria Glenister, 44, singer and former primary school teacher from Reading first discovered Beat the Street in 2014 during the Caversham game while working in a school and found herself extending journeys to reach Beat Boxes around the area, earning points for the distance she walked and cycled.
Improving health and overcoming barriers
In February 2023, following a neck biopsy Maria was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer (one of the most common and treatable of the thyroid cancers). Due to being a singer and teacher, having raised glands and a sore throat were a regular occurrence and so unknowingly, she ignored the growing tumours in her neck for several years.
Within four months of her diagnosis, Maria had completed her surgery which consisted of a total thyroidectomy and removal of 15 lymph nodes, a low iodine diet in preparation for radioactive iodine therapy (swallowing a radioactive pill) and isolation. One of the many side effects of thyroid cancer and associated treatments is fatigue and weight gain. When Maria discovered that Beat the Street was coming back to West Reading from 20 September 2023, she decided to start walking and cycling as much as possible to improve her energy levels.
“If I had one wish of something positive to come from my journey thus far, it is for people to learn more about their bodies, embrace a healthier lifestyle and get any lumps checked immediately, just in case.” – Maria Glenister
Raising funds for charity
“After two days of exhaustion and elation, I realised I needed to do more.” – Maria Glenister
During the first few days of the game Maria decided she would also spread awareness and raise money for Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust. Admitting she knew it wouldn’t be an easy challenge, Maria was determined to help others, knowing that her resilience and participation in the game could help others at the beginning of their cancer journey by raising funds for charity via her JustGiving page.
Maria had difficult days where she was fatigued, but she still went out to help her friends join Beat the Street, commenting that:
“Sometimes those are the best parts of these outings – helping others to get the most out of the game.
“I’ve wanted to give up. Luckily, I was extra motivated by my fundraiser.
“Before playing Beat the Street my activity levels were practically zero. I barely left the house. I might have walked for 30 minutes max a day, I was also doing some physio exercises and beginning to bike a couple of kilometres once or twice a week. During the game I have biked approximately 30kilometres a day! I couldn’t walk more than 100 metres a few months ago without running out of breath and needing to rest. Now I am better at biking hills.”
When Maria received her Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust t-shirt, she wrote ‘Thank you’ and the names of all the people who donated to her fundraiser.
A community spirit
Beat the Street is all about bringing people together, helping them become more physically active, spend time with family and friends and enjoy the great outdoors. As part of the Reading Green Social Prescribing Project; this time around Beat the Street West Reading worked in partnership with Nature Nurture and Sport in Mind bringing various local activities and sessions to local outdoor green spaces for participants to enjoy and reap the benefits of nature connectedness on mental wellbeing.
“One of the benefits of Beat the Street is how many people you meet on your travels… I ventured into Holy Brook Nook on day five to meet Luna the dog and her “Nature Nurture” humans. They were coppicing hazel and let me loose with a scythe, before showing me the various things growing there. I love Reading’s green spaces.
“On day 10, I took things a bit easier and treated myself to one of Terry’s incredibly informative and enjoyable walks, where I made some friends.”
Ending on a high
Maria recorded the highs and lows of her Beat the Street journey over six weeks:
“I am shocked how far I’ve come. It just shows what determination and fundraising motivation does for your health, because I’ve cycled roughly the equivalent distance of Reading to Kyiv, Ukraine! I’ve also been spurred on by my friends, nature greenery, animals and weather. Thankfully I love rain”.